The landmark reset of the $2 billion Connections project has been approved – with the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments agreeing on a way forward to secure the future of irrigated agriculture in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) for generations.
Connections aims to save 429GL of water while improving the region’s agricultural productivity and efficiency. Over the course of the entire project, an estimated 4150km of channel will be modernised – which includes the installation of new water meters.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville announced the reset plan at the Victorian Farmers Federation water forum (VFF) in Rochester, which also includes an improved delivery model that uses local input and increases transparency and certainty for landowners.
To ensure there are checks and balances in place, the model includes an independent review, a landowner submissions process and provision of a ‘reasonable time’ to reach agreement.
The key feature of the reset is a publicly available channel-by-channel assessment – categorising channels in terms of water savings, water use and potential efficiency gains for the district. An online portal will also be publicly accessible.
The Andrews Labor Government has worked closely with Goulburn Murray Water, the VFF, local councils and water services committees to give Connections the reboot it needed, building on work from the Project Control Group (PCG) to roll-out $47 million in Winter Works and resolve more than 100 cases experiencing delays.
Planning has started for next year’s Winter Works package – worth more than $100 million – including meter upgrades, new regulators, channel remediation and pipeline construction.
The PCG will contact landowners throughout September to discuss the timing of works in their area.
The project remains on budget, with the timeline for completion of physical works extended to October 2020. Connections will deliver 204GL of water to the Commonwealth, in line with the Basin Plan requirements.
The reset follows the mid-term review released last year, additional consultation with irrigators and the establishment of the PCG to drive the future of the project.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“This is a significant day as we announce a real pathway forward for Connections – one that will produce water savings as part of our commitment to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and secure the future of irrigated agriculture in the Goulburn Murray region.”
“We were determined to get this reset right, and now we have a clear plan for this once-in-a-generation project to benefit irrigators and the environment.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020